Wellington: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday announced that her country would open its borders to travelers from Australia early next year if coronavirus case numbers remain low.
Addressing reporters here, Ardern said: “Cabinet has agreed in principle to establish a travel bubble with Australia. We anticipate in the first quarter of 2021 pending confirmation from the Australian cabinet and no significant change in the circumstances of either country.”
The Prime Minister added that officials were working on a number of issues and there has been good progress, 9 News reported.
“There has been some public focus on the requirement for 28 days free of community transmission, but that is just one of the criteria and areas where preparation needs to be done before opening.
“As important as having clear plans on the event of an outbreak in either country that may see borders close and potentially thousands of New Zealanders seeking to return who may need to go into isolation.
“There are also arrangements to be made with airlines about the management of the aircrew and separation, for example, of other trans-Tasman flights to ensure there’s no potential cross-contamination,” she added.
Ardern however, did not reveal the date when the travel bubble will start operating.
Responding to the announcement, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said that the resumption of travel between the two countries would benefit both economies, Xinhua news agency reported.
“We welcome the advice from New Zealand, it’s the second half of the equation,” he told reporters.
“This is a sign that New Zealand and Australia aren’t just working together, but that families can be back together in both directions.
“Friends can be back together in both directions and flights can be full in both directions which is good for the economy, good for our airlines and good for both countries.
“It’s the first step on a return to international normality,” the Health Minister further said.
Hunt added Australia is “ready to implement from our side as soon as New Zealand is ready”.
“We understand it may take a few more weeks, but we are working constructively and patiently.”